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Apple Nearly Moved to SPARC

CmdrTaco posted more than 8 years ago | from the we-that-woulda-been-interesting dept.

Sun Microsystems 257

taskforce writes "Sun Microsystems Co-Founder Bill Joy claims that Apple nearly moved to Sun's SPARC chips instead of IBM's PPC platform, back in the mid-1990s. From the article: "We got very close to having Apple use Sparc. That almost happened," Joy said at a panel discussion featuring reminiscences by Sun's four cofounders at the Computer History Museum. An account of his entire presentation can be found on Cnet."

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257 comments

Dupe (2, Informative)

FTL (112112) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532345)

Here we go again [slashdot.org].

Re:Dupe (0, Offtopic)

Wonko (15033) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532446)

So you are saying that an Apple/Sun merger is the same thing as Apple using Sparc chips? Does this mean Apple ended up mergin with IBM and are now merging with Intel?

There may be a lot of dupes but you seem to have jumped the gun on this one :p.

Re:Dupe (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532576)

> So you are saying that an Apple/Sun merger is the same thing as Apple using Sparc chips?

In this case the two articles (did you read both of them?) are looking at the same events from slightly different angles.

Re:Dupe (0, Offtopic)

1u3hr (530656) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532678)

So you are saying that an Apple/Sun merger is the same thing as Apple using Sparc chips? Does this mean Apple ended up mergin with IBM and are now merging with Intel? There may be a lot of dupes but you seem to have jumped the gun on this one :p.

I'm not the GP poster, but he's right, it is a dupe. Read TFAs linked, different choice of headline, same story, both drawing on the same event of Jan 12.

Re:Dupe [OT] (1)

frdmfghtr (603968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532727)

I agree...while the two linked articles touch on the almost-merger and use of PPC over SPARC, one focuses on the merger/acquistion story and one focuses on the PPC vs. SPARC decision.

Half brother/half sister stories? Cousins?

Re:Dupe (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532695)

So what. Some of us use dupes as a "value added service".

How is that ? Well, I actually have a life away from this keyboard and I don't read slashdot everyday. I didn't see this story the first time around, but thanks to the dupe I get to see it today.

Ok. So there is just a touch of sarcasm there. But there is more wasted space on this board because of people yelling "dupe", "you spelled that wrong", "you should have put a comma there", etc.

Its more difficult trying to find a post here that's actually on topic than it is to parse bad grammar.

If its a dupe then everyone that read it before knows it. There is no reason to wast space pointing it out.

digg? (0, Offtopic)

capnspanky (886803) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532355)

What is this, digg.com with its 10 year old news? It was all over the media back when Apple was making their switch to the new architecture.

Nothing to see here, move along.

Re:digg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532474)

Then why don't you just go on Digg to make your insightful comments? Lamer.

Re:digg? (1)

frederik (86671) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532553)

Isn't quite a large part of history old "news"?

Re:digg? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532602)

Yeah, that's what Historydot is for, innit?

32-bit UltraSPARC or 64-bit UltraSparc? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532645)

Or 64-bit Athlon64 (from AMD/IBM)?

Apple's SparcOS or Sun's SolarisOS?

Any more information?

Cool threads CPUS + MacOS? (1)

moshennik (826059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533117)

With the new Cool threads CPUs (up to 32 threads per CPU), with low heat and energy consuptions SUN is years ahead of competition. It would be interesting if Apple made a play on it.

Fine dining (5, Funny)

Mostly a lurker (634878) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532358)

Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy had to be wined and dined at a Silicon Valley McDonald's before he gave up his reluctance to help launch the workstation maker in 1982
History does not record which of the many fine vintages available at McDonald's was selected on this illustrious occasion.

Re:Fine dining (4, Funny)

Neo-Rio-101 (700494) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532421)

So that explains the "Happy Meal Ethernet" driver for Linux on SPARC systems....

Re:Fine dining (4, Informative)

Megane (129182) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532538)

Actually, "Happy Meal Ethernet" is the 100Mbit sequel to the 10Mbit "Big Mac Ethernet".

static void happy_meal_tcvr_write(struct happy_meal *hp,
unsigned long tregs, int reg,
unsigned short value)
{
int tries = TCVR_WRITE_TRIES;

ASD(("happy_meal_tcvr_write: reg=0x%02x value=%04xn", reg,
value));

/* Welcome to Sun Microsystems, can I take your order please? */
if (!hp->happy_flags & HFLAG_FENABLE)
return happy_meal_bb_write(hp, tregs, reg, value);

/* Would you like fries with that? */
hme_write32(hp, tregs + TCVR_FRAME,
(FRAME_WRITE | (hp->paddr ...

Re:Fine dining (1)

Bert64 (520050) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532778)

I always thought Big Mac Ethernet was the first 100mb chipset (lance ethernet being their 10mb option), which was only available as an addon sbus card and never became widely popular (whereas the happy meal was shipped as standard on newer ultrasparc systems)

Vintage 1966 semen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532458)

being dispensed by the cashier.

Re:Vintage 1966 semen... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532640)

Sounds yummy compared to McDonalds usual fast-faeces menus. I wonder if a similar meal was the closer for the Microsoft settlement, Steve's so salty!

Re:Fine dining (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532729)

McDonalds does tend to lower a person's resistance.

Nearly... but not quite ... my friend!! (1, Insightful)

Ganniterix (863430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532366)

This is boring ... shouldn't we discuss what is ... instead of would could have been? If we start considering the almost but not quite and what would have happned if ... I think there enough useless discussion going on already!

Re:Nearly... but not quite ... my friend!! (1)

enc.conf (947925) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532420)

I think it would make a perfect scenario for a cheep holiwood sci-fi... Or just another tome of Mr. S.J's auto-biography.

Re:Nearly... but not quite ... my friend!! (1)

tezbobobo (879983) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533008)

I think the point of historical review is to identify at which points mistakes were made. It is not to discuss what could have been but what might have been a better choice. Or to identify how the correct decisions where made. Different historical revision approaches could include functionalist, structuralist, or Great Man interpretations of how decisions where made and whether they were correct. Each would lend there own criticism. Simply because you have nothing to contribute to the conversations doesn't invalidate it. I don't think /. exists for your entertainment, but for a more technical discussion of IT matters. If you are not interested, I would try www.disney.com - I hear there are some nice Pixar movies there.

Damn You Taco! DUPE. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532380)

I swear, now you're just trying to piss us off.
fucking christ.

Can't wait to see this the 3rd time around.

SPARC was the dominant chip at the time. (5, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532388)

For serious workstations, the SPARC was basically the dominant chip at the time. Indeed, it was at the top of its game. Even now we still see it used for mission-critical and high-performance tasks. So it's really no wonder that Apple would have considered such a switch.

Re:SPARC was the dominant chip at the time. (1)

Per Wigren (5315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532559)

Weren't most heavy workstations in Apple's primary domain (graphics, video, design) based on MIPS at that time, in Silicon Graphics' workstations?

Re:SPARC was the dominant chip at the time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532758)

Even now we still see it used for mission-critical and high-performance tasks.

Heh, right. UltraSPARC IV is extremely underwelming, SPARC VI is mediocre, and Niagara is fast only on very parallel tasks that don't use FP.

Re:SPARC was the dominant chip at the time. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532799)

You back Coach Zee? Ran out of crack or something?

Re:SPARC was the dominant chip at the time. (1)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532824)

SPARC was the oldest, weakest, most primitive processor design at the time. Truly horrible. It was only successful to the extent Sun was successful. Even the dead Moto 88K was better.

Re:SPARC was the dominant chip at the time. (1)

Jeff DeMaagd (2015) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532911)

Sparc probably would have been the wrong way to go as there never was a good portable version of the chips. Sure, there were some SparcBooks but IIRC, they never worked out well. PPC worked out a lot better as a general purpose architecture for longer.

Re:SPARC was the dominant chip at the time. (2, Informative)

Frumious Wombat (845680) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532939)

As I remember from running simulations at the time, the top of the game was IBM's Power, with DEC's Alpha close behind, then followed by SGI/MIPS. The MIPS R8000 was the first hard-core contender, but they were already having trouble keeping up with DEC/IBM. Sparc was on anyone's radar because it was cheap (relatively), and all of the software written for the previous 3/XX generation could still run.

We used to be really psyched that the PowerMacs had a version of IBM's workstation chip inside (PPC 601/604 chips were in both PowerMacs and AIX workstations). A lot of people bought them for Mathematica as a result.

If the moon wasn't created gravity may be stronger (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532391)

Where would life be today if gravity was just a smidgen stronger? Wow, all the thoughts just racing through my head now.

we know (-1, Offtopic)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532392)

Yes, we know. [slashdot.org]

Re:we know (1, Offtopic)

kobach (803388) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532414)

yup. why are we seeing duplicate stories on slashdot? does cowboyneal have alzheimer's?

Re:we know (1)

xusr (947781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532745)

I know you were trying to be humorous, but Alzheimer's is hardly a tasteful target; it is a serious disease that is a source of extreme pain for many people. Please be more conscious next time when attempting to crack a joke.

Re:we know (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532859)

Why, do you have Alzheimer's?

Re:we know (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14533139)

Yeah, he forgot where he was posting

Alternative Headline (5, Funny)

Bloater (12932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532402)

Sun Microsystems Boasts "We're not quite good enough."

Re:Alternative Headline (1)

jcr (53032) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532599)

They're still at it.. Remember Jonathan Schwartz trying to convice Apple to save Solaris from the ash heap of history a couple of months back?

-jcr

Good decision (5, Informative)

lordholm (649770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532409)

The SPARC V8 is quite clean and nice to work with, and is farley sane, with the exception of tagged arthmetics, the trap model and the visible pipeline, and missing standard interface to the MMU (yes I know of the ref-mmu).

On the other hand, the SPARC V9 is a horrendeus monster thar is just plain scary when dealing with supervisor level code. IMHO the PPC64 is much nicer than the V9, in many aspects.

But, on the other hand the PPC, has gone out of order, while the SPARC has stayed in order, making the CPU a hell to compile code for.

Architecturally, the PPC is a slight bit nicer than the SPARC, and as a plus, the PPC64 was defined exactly the same time as the PPC32 was, and thus they (PPC32 & 64) are very similar.

In my eye, it was a good decision to go for the PPC.

Re:Good decision (1)

T-Ranger (10520) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532848)

Perhaps, but in business the question isnt necessaraly about the technology today. Its the old story of small fish, little pond, v. big fish little pond.

If Apple had gone with a the Sparc chip/platform, could Apple have influenced SPARC Internation more then they did with the Motorola/IBM/Apple setup? Interesting question. I know that one of the reasons cited for Apple moving from the PPC arch is that IBM has only been interested in investing in the POWER arch, all but ignoring the consumer grade PPC systems. I think that Apple could have sold at least as many AppleSparcs then Sun sold UltraSparcs, and therefor had a greater (relative) pull with SparcInternational then with IBM. Also, (and Im not sure on the timeline here), they could have gotten help with a 68k to Sparc transition from Sun, which had done the same thing (though, without binary compatability).

Re:Good decision (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532873)

But, on the other hand the PPC, has gone out of order, while the SPARC has stayed in order, making the CPU a hell to compile code for.

Fujitsu's SPARC VI is out of order.

Architecturally, the PPC is a slight bit nicer than the SPARC, and as a plus, the PPC64 was defined exactly the same time as the PPC32 was, and thus they (PPC32 & 64) are very similar.

Sight bit? Two words, register windows.

Had the workstation vendors worked together. (3, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532422)

There has always been much speculation as to what the computing landscape would look like today had the non-Intel vendors worked together to produce a superior chip.

Indeed, the combined talents of the Alpha crew from DEC, with the PA-RISC developers from HP, the SPARC group from Sun, those behind the MIPS at SGI and MIPS Technologies, and the PPC people from IBM, for instance, could have come up with a CPU that completely trumped what Intel was putting out at the time.

Re:Had the workstation vendors worked together. (5, Insightful)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532457)

There's no reason to believe this at all. Adding more of the same level of engineeering expertise doesn't necessarily get you anywhere. Besides, it could be argued that all the processor groups you mentioned produced processors that were better than Intel offered at the time. They simply weren't enough better to make a difference. Odds are that combining the efforts of the competition would have made them all fail even sooner. HP joined Intel for IA64 and look where that got them.

Re:Had the workstation vendors worked together. (1)

Rob_Bryerton (606093) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533208)

It could be argued that marketing, not technical excellence, "made" Intel during the time period in question, not that the others "simply weren't enough better to make a difference".

/devil's advocate

Back in the day.. (2, Interesting)

turgid (580780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532544)

...late '80s/very early '90s there was something called the ACE Consortium [byte.com].

This was formed by the likes of DEC, Compaq and SCO at the time when IBM had not long brought out the dreadfully underpowered, expensive and proprietary PS/2 line of personal computers running the pathetic MS-DOS [wikipedia.org] and mediocre OS/2 [wikipedia.org].

Most people were running PeeCees which were essentially 16-bit with a single user, single tasking operating system running on dreadfully slow CISC (8086, 80286, 80386) processors will pitifully small amounts of RAM (512k-1MB) and nary a GUI.

The ACE consortium was designing a MIPS-based [sasktelwebsite.net] (32-bit RISC) open specification for a replacement to the IBM-PC and PS/2 architectured which would run a UNIX SYSVR4 derivative and a nice GUI (was it with X?).

The project died a death. I can't remember why.

When I was 15 I longed for a RISC UNIX workstation in the house instead of the 12MHz Compaq SLT/286 we had (for business use).

MIPS lived on in post-VAX pre-Alpha workstations at DEC and then at SGI. itanic Kool Aid all but killed off MIPS. The only two major RISC architectures from the era which survive are SPARC and POWER/PowerPC, and for a couple of years it looked like SPARC was dead too.

The spirit of Alpha lives on in Athlon and Opteron.

Re:Back in the day.. (3, Informative)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532637)

First, when the ACE Consortium was formed Intel was selling 486's. The 486 was not dreadfully slow compared to RISC competition although its floating point lagged. Intel PC's also had far more memory than you suggest and Windows (even OS/2) was well established at that time. The competition for ACE was not 16-bit, single-tasking low performance DOS machines like you say.

Second, Microsoft was a member of ACE and Windows NT was built to run on ACE machines as well as PC's. For those who wonder why NT/2000/XP boots the way it does, the reason is that PC's run special boot code that emulates an ACE bootstrap environment. It could be argued that ACE was the preferred platform for NT and MS internally built ACE workstations as reference platforms. Much of the NT code was developed on them. The ACE machines inside MS had EISA busses and used PC peripherals. ACE even included a spec that allowed ACE machines to use PC expansion cards with modified option ROMS.

It's conceivable that ACE intended the workstations to run a UNIX derivative but I doubt MS saw it that way. It's far more likely, had ACE succeeded, that its main platform would have been Windows. ACE machines, despite their MIPS processors, ran DOS applications! Sorry, ACE wasn't a UNIX workstation, it was a PC replacement that ran MS OS'es in addition to UNIX variants.

Now, about ARC---the PowerPC version of ACE...

Re:Back in the day.. (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532680)

The 486 was a dog compared to a 30MHz SPARC, both in integer, and especially floating-point.

When the Pentium 100 came out, it was almost as fast as RISC processors that had come out 5 years previously.

Yes, in 1990, some people were buying PCs with 2MB RAM, but most people were still running machines with MSDOS with 1MB of RAM at most.

x86 processors finally caught up with RISC workstations when the AMD Althon came out. The Pentium III nearly caught up, but not quite. We're now into 1999. That's a good decade after ACE was formed.

Another half decade later, and Alpha is king in the form of AMD Opteron.

I have a 486 with Slackware on it. I can assure you it performs nothing like a RISC workstation, and it has 20MB of RAM and a 100MB hard disk.

Re:Back in the day.. (3, Informative)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533043)

ACE was formed in 1991. At that time the 386 was dead and the 486 was available at 50MHz. The Pentium was introduced in 1993. It was superscalar and offered integer performance similar to the best RISC processors of that day, certainly faster than RISC from 1988! Such comparisons are silly. Incidently, the first Pentiums were 60 and 66 MHz. It took another cycle and a different pinout before the Pentium went 100 MHz.

As for GUI's, OS/2 1.1 (the first with a GUI) was introduced in 88. Windows/386, the first fully virtual, fully preemptive version of Windows was introduced in 87. Windows 3.0 in 90 and 3.1 in 92. Windows was not the exclusive desktop at the time but it was certainly established. Compelling Windows apps that forced the PC world over to Windows started appearing around 92, not much after the creation of ACE. Word started dominating WP beginning in 92. There was still a lot of DOS use but the PC world was hardly as you describe (slow 286's and 386's).

Memory cost the same for PC's as it did for workstations. If anything, PC's with their compact instruction sets and small footprint OS'es made better use of memory than workstations did. Don't know what your point is there. Workstations had more memory typically but they needed it and their prices reflected it. Business ppl didn't buy workstations.

Claiming that the Athlon was substantially better than the P3 is silly. It had a slight IPC advantage and eventually a clockrate advantage, but the two designs offered similar performance. While the Athlon was introduced in 99, 8 years after ACE (not a good decade), the first of the P3 designs was introduced in 95, only 4 years after ACE.

AMD's Opterons aren't Alpha's and it's a good thing. Alpha's sucked and the P4 looks much more like and Alpha than the Opterons do. DEC had good engineers and contributed nicely to the PC world, most notably with their PCI work, not their processor designs. They gave use PCI bridges and a nice ethernet controller.

If we are comparing experience with these machines, my first PC was an IBM 8088 machine. I started work for a major PC manufacturer in 87. I did OS/2 1.0 and 1.1 work, UNIX systems programming and NT driver development. I did firmware programming work for that company starting in 88. My first machine there was a 10Mhz 286 and I used every type processor and most speed grades since then. I had extensive experience with the 960, Alpha, and PPC 603 in addition to all the Intel x86 processors. I worked some with the i860, the Moto 88K and the Itanium. I'm quite familiar with the history of the processors, OS'es and ACE. You can have your Slackware 486 machine. I got rid of mine long ago and wouldn't be bragging if I was still using one.

Re:Back in the day.. (0)

turgid (580780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533094)

You can have your Slackware 486 machine. I got rid of mine long ago and wouldn't be bragging if I was still using one.

For some definition of "bragging."

Claiming that the Athlon was substantially better than the P3 is silly.

It was 40% faster at the same clock frequency and scaled linearly in SMP configurations. It had better memory throughput too. It cost less.

and NT driver development

You have my condolences.

Re:Back in the day.. (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533077)

x86 processors finally caught up with RISC workstations when the AMD Althon came out.

Actually, the original 200mhz Pentium Pro had higher SPEC scores than any RISC chip available at the time (although there was a revised Alpha a couple months later). The PPro pretty much put the final nail in the coffin of ACE/ARC/PREP and all the other RISC PC efforts, and the beginning of the end of the RISC Workstation. By the time Athlon came out, everyone had already pretty much given up except Sun.

Re:Back in the day.. (1)

turgid (580780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533134)

By the time Athlon came out, everyone had already pretty much given up except Sun.

Yes, *sigh*. They all climbed aboard the itanic, which is still promising jam tomorrow.

Don't read too much into CPU spec scores. Yes, the PPro was impressive when it came out, but as with all x86 intel CPUs, the memory and I/O bandwidth was a problem. They were never intended for anything other than PeeCees. Sever and workstation applications were an afterthought, as anyone with any experience of SMP systems will tell you.

If only the i860 had lived...

Re:Back in the day.. (1)

BuR4N (512430) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532661)

"When I was 15 I longed for a RISC UNIX workstation in the house instead of the 12MHz Compaq SLT/286 we had (for business use)."

You should have bought an Acorn Archimedes, 1989 it was probably the best you could get without spending a fortune. I got myself this one as a replacement for my Atari ST, http://www.old-computers.com/museum/computer.asp?s t=1&c=697 [old-computers.com] .

Re:Back in the day.. (2, Funny)

turgid (580780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532690)

My dad wouldn't let me have anything that wasn't "PeeCee compatible" since that's what all businesses and Right Thinking Folk(TM) used, even if it was technically inferior.

I wasn't allowed an Amiga either (before the Archimedes came out)...

He's still stuck on Windows and curses it every time I speak to him.

I've been doing Linux and UNIX since 1995 (when I left home).

Re:Had the workstation vendors worked together. (1)

Antique Geekmeister (740220) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532567)

I think you can basically ignore the Alpha developers: after the the theft of Alpha technologies for the Pentium, and the theft of David Cutler's old work for developing NT (which David Cutler himself took illegally along with his merry band of software pirates he hired from DEC), repeating the Alpha work for a non-Intel chipset would have been playing to Intel's and Window's strengths.

Unless the old Alpha developers in a cooperative environment were able to sidestep old Alpha issues, or completely avoid the compromises Intel made to stuff Alpha technologies into the Pentium, then I think the Alpha developers were not in a good position to contribute much to such an endeaver.

Re:Had the workstation vendors worked together. (4, Interesting)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532686)

haha, Alpha had the grimmest, most threadbare instruction set imaginable. It's strength was it's ferocious clock rates that were enabled by abnormally deep pipelines and instructions that did relatively little (no integer divide!). The characteristics that Alpha had that caused it to be so loved are the same ones that cause the P4 to be so hated; relatively poor IPC, very deep pipelines, very high clockrates, huge caches to cover it's design weaknesses, and excessive power consumption. The love of Alpha was a cult. Yeah it was fast and 64-bit but it was a tremendous power hog for it's generation. No need to love Alpha. No one did but DEC.

BTW, Intel didn't steal anything from Alpha for the x86's. It's owned the team at the time. Cutler didn't steal anything from DEC either. A person owns the knowledge and experience inside his head. I'm sure if there was evidence of theft it would have been dealt with. DEC was a dinosaur that wasn't showing any signs of interest in Cutler's continued work. He left to take up his projects at a company that was interested in pursuing them.

Re:Had the workstation vendors worked together. (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14533111)

You seem to have missed the last great Alpha, the 21264, which fixed most of your complaints. It was based on the superscalar high-IPC design that has become the standard on most performant CPUs since then. It didn't have the same kind of huge benchmark lead as the 21264, but it did lead the SpecINT and SpecFP tables for much of its history.

Re:Had the workstation vendors worked together. (2, Interesting)

ACMENEWSLLC (940904) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532693)

>>Indeed, the combined talents of the Alpha crew from DEC, with the PA-RISC
>>developers from HP, the SPARC group from Sun, those behind the MIPS at SGI and
>>MIPS Technologies, and the PPC people from IBM, for instance, could have come up
>>with a CPU that completely trumped what Intel was putting out at the time.

ROFL - that is hilarious. Can you imagine the politics in a chip like this? By the time the chip meets everyone at these companys requirements you would have a horrific chip.

And as we all know, the chip itself really makes no difference. Look at x86 for example with all it's legacy routines that continue to haunt it. What makes the difference is marketing.

Had any one of these chips had the proper marketing department and sales force, Microsoft would have an OS for it. I have an NT 3.5 for Alpha CD somewhere. They did write 3.51 for PPC and reportably SPARC, but didn't release SPARC.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Windows_NT [wikipedia.org]

Novell 4.11 with NDS has features that Windows 2003 AD still doesn't have. For example, while I can mark a drive compressed on both OSes, on Netware I can configure it to compress the file only after not used after x many days. And I can tell the OS to leave a file uncompressed after use for y many days. I can mark a file as executable or not, such as with *nix. I can do bulk operations on the directory which I still find difficult with Active Directory. With some lesser known options, I can put the same user in multiple leafs in the tree to associate the same user with multiple departments leafs, applications leafs, or what have you. In AD if I put my user objects in department leafs, I can't associate GPO's to groups of users such as managers from each department. I have to create a subcontainer leaf and put managers in there and associate the GPO to each of these leafs. What a pain.

Active Directory is still not where Netware NDS was 10 years ago. But that's not what matters. Marketing is paramount.

Re:Had the workstation vendors worked together. (1)

twodot72 (867340) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532855)

But these companies did produce faster chips than Intel without cooperation, and Intel still prevailed. Especially the Alpha was lightyears ahead of Intel, performance-wise, in its heyday. The reasons they still failed have nothing to do with lack of technical prowess.

Re:Had the workstation vendors worked together. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14533156)

could have come up with a CPU that completely trumped what Intel was putting out at the time.

And it would've only cost $3000 per CPU.

Sun also switched from Motorola 68k (1)

Henriok (6762) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532424)

..and Apple was about to. Sun was probably an obvious partner for Apple.
However.. I think going PowerPC was the by far best choice at the time with massive backing by almost everyone.
My take on history is that Apple have chosen the right processor architecture at any given moment taking account everything that was known at the time. In hindsight everything always looks different.

Speculation that SGI would buy Apple. (2, Interesting)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532449)

There was a lot of speculation in the early to mid 1990s that SGI would buy Apple. SGI was doing quite well at that time, considering they had just released their very successful Indy line. Considering that both provided workstations for the same type of applications (multimedia-related, desktop publishing, and so forth), the systems from Apple could have offered a solid low-end line to complement SGI's more powerful systems.

What could have happened is an infusion of IRIX with Mac OS. We could have seen Mac OS on the MIPS, for instance. Not only that, but it would be a situation very similar to what we have now with Mac OS X: an excellent GUI built upon a solid UNIX-based core. Except in the SGI case the UNIX core would be IRIX, rather than a BSD/Mach conglomerate.

Re:Speculation that SGI would buy Apple. (1)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532536)

It's far more likely that Mac OS would have been phased out entirely since, as you said, Apple would have been a low end line for SGI. SGI was an incredibly arrogant company and it would not have seen Mac OS as offering anything of interest to their current platforms (and that would have been right). If SGI had bought Apple, macs would have run SGI's OS'es until they ceased to be called macs, and of course they'd be out of business entirely today.

gate by gate. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532688)

What is the best future 64-bit chip?
  • 64-bit UltraSPARC.
  • Athlon64 or Opteron.
  • 64-bit PowerPC.
  • Alpha 21364 Ev8.
  • 64-bit MIPS R10000.
  • 64-bit future ARMxxTDPMI-JZ-VFP-MX.
  • A clean 32 64-bit G.P.R.s and 32 64-bit and 16 128-bit F.P.R.s RISC and VLIW vectorial processor with integrated Altivec-like or SSE3-like co-processor.

Re:Sun also switched from Motorola 68k (1)

dfghjk (711126) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532518)

Almost everyone? Who are you talking about?

PowerPC was not considered the best choice by anyone outside IBM, Moto and Apple. It was clear at the time that ALL other processor alternatives offered superior performance to both Intel and PPC since IBM didn't design PPC to be the fastest processors of the group, it wanted PPC to be speed competitive with Intel at far lower cost. Apple bit on that. The downside of PPC was that Motorola proved just as incompetent carrying the family forward as it was with the 68K. PPC became nothing more than an embedded processor family that Apple had to promote as a desktop processor. The G5 might have changed PPC's fortunes had it's continued development been justifiable.

Re:Sun also switched from Motorola 68k (1)

Chanc_Gorkon (94133) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532669)

I still think that in some ways Apple is making the wrong move again. I STILL say that within a few short years, Mac OS X will be bootable on ANY Intel machine and Apple will stop trying to fight letting it run on only Mac Intel Machines. I still think Apple may make hardware, but it will always be the super high tech and absolutely georgeous design. Microsoft or someone else will figure out how to get Windows programs running natively on Mac OS X on intel and that will be all she wrote for Microsoft.

Re:Sun also switched from Motorola 68k (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533092)

Exactly - mod up. PowerPC was designed to be cheap moreso than it was to be fast.

The rumors are that Apple sells $2500 PowerBooks with a $30 G4 CPU. Ai.

Advanced Interface Design (4, Interesting)

DaveRexel (887813) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532442)

-TFA-
"McNealy added that he went to Steve Jobs' house to try to hammer out the user interface agreement. The Apple co-founder and CEO was "sitting under a tree, reading 'How to Make a Nuclear Bomb,'" with bare feet and wearing jeans with holes torn in the knees, McNealy said."
---

From just this one anecdote one does get the feeling that Steve might have taken over Sun eventually. The disappointment expressed by Bill Joy over the failed "close encounters" with Apple does indicate that they would have followed Steves leadership.

On a more serious note, the clash of the raging CEO egos would not have been beneficial for either company.

Re:Advanced Interface Design (1)

uncleFester (29998) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532545)

On a more serious note, the clash of the raging CEO egos would not have been beneficial for either company.

.. but it would have been fun to watch. would probably make Larry Ellison look like he's been on Prozac all these years.. :)

-'fester

Lots of processors considered? (4, Interesting)

RetiredMidn (441788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532453)

I seem to recall seeing a demo of a Mac with a Motorola 88000 RISC processor running my 68000 binary code (Lotus 1-2-3) under emulation, a predecessor to the PowerPC effort.

Oops, I may be in violation of an NDA...

/. sure is a good place for dredging up obscure technical memories.

Re:Lots of processors considered? (1)

IntlHarvester (11985) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533026)

Wasn't the "Star Trek" Intel port done at about the same time? I also have heard stories that DEC Alpha was considered. So it does sound like they looked at everything.

Re:Lots of processors considered? (3, Interesting)

RetiredMidn (441788) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533105)

Wasn't the "Star Trek" Intel port done at about the same time?

Now that you mention it, yeah. We were given a separate presentation at Lotus about Star Trek, including a demo. (Damn, there goes another NDA.)

To be honest, I remember thinking at the time that Star Trek wasn't really thought through. Certainly the execs at Lotus didn't get it (which says more about the execs than it says about Star Trek). DOS/Windows apps were not going to run under Star Trek (certainly not with the desired user experience). "Porting" these apps to the Mac OS APIs wasn't going to be all that easy. And converting Mac applications of the day, many of which were written in processor-dependent ways, to a new processor architecture would be much more difficult than the conversion of more modern applications today.

It was neat technology, but it didn't solve a problem people thought they had.

I kinda went off topic there; please don't hurt my karma.

"Nearly" (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532455)

"Nearly" as in "We at Sun begged Apple to use our chips and keep us from going out of business, but Apple wouldn't return our phone calls".

Subscribe now! (1)

patcito (932676) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532463)

The next Slashdot dupes will be ready soon, but subscribers can beat the rush and see it early!

Sun almost went to intel. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532486)

Intel created either the 386 or the 486 chip for sun to use as their processor. It was so many times faster it embarassed sun and they stuck with sparc. Seriously. the industry is not made upon woulda coulda shoulda's.

close only counts in horse shoes and hand grenades.

Bit3h (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532497)

people's faces at s0rvive at all Private sex party what we've known me if you'd like, log Ron Then the Though I have never ultimately, we ME! It's official of playing your

I hate to sound like a troll. (-1, Redundant)

Raven42rac (448205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532552)

But who gives a rat's ass?
If the dog hadn't stopped to pee, he would have caught the rabbit.

I hear.... (2, Funny)

Slashcrap (869349) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532579)

...that Sun are also considering switching to Sparc for their servers. You know, if things don't work out with the Opteron they need a backup strategy.

I kid, I kid....

Sun should port x86 Solaris to intelMac (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532593)

The main problem x86 Solaris faces is providing driver support. intelMacs would provide a highly standardized and popular platform.

Apples and Oranges (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532701)

Hmm, the topic is somewhat fitting ;-)

You're comparing different entities. In this case you should compare your intelMacs with Sun's released Opteron Servers. You won't see Solaris/x86 having a problem there either, but if OS X /x86 would run on that kind of hardware remains to be seen.

Re:Sun should port x86 Solaris to intelMac (4, Interesting)

turgid (580780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532771)

The main problem x86 Solaris faces is providing driver support.

That problem is being addressed and started with the Solaris 10 project many years ago. Solaris 11^H^H Nevada will again be a vast improvement.

Solaris 10 x86 runs better than Linux on modern laptops. Solaris 10 rules.

How much more metaphores? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532643)

Logical decision since everyone knows that Sun makes Apples grow.

Seriously, while it all a funny ring to it I wonder when we'll stop using real life verbs for computers. So move from jars filled with beans back to archives filled with programs ;)

a company of "almosts" (4, Insightful)

penguin-collective (932038) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532670)

Sun almost created several great desktop window systems. Sun almost set a standard for web-based application delivery with Java. Apple almost picked Sun's SPARC architecture. Sun almost set the standard for server operating sytems. And then there are things that Sun achieved, briefly, and lost, like dominance of university departments.

I leave it to others to diagnose the exact causes of Sun's repeated failures. I can say this much for myself: I won't buy another Sun product again, ever, nor will I ever trust any of Sun's promises again.

Maybe. (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14532756)

I leave it to others to diagnose the exact causes of Sun's repeated failures.

There's a certain arrogant complacency and aloofness from the "vulgar real world" within Sun's higher engineering echelons. Someone needs to tell Scott. I'm not talking about the Bill Joys of this world, but the prima-donna engineers who sit a couple of levels down destroying good projects at the review process because they didn't think of it first or they didn't get to do it themselves or because it was done by a different part of the company.

I'm sure this goes on in all large companies.

Isn't that... (4, Funny)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532783)

Isn't that kinda like "I almost got laid"?

Re:Isn't that... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14533062)

No, 'cause at least you get a little pleasure out of getting to second base.

Re:Isn't that... (3, Funny)

aztektum (170569) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533249)

In their last meeting, Apple reps. were rumored to have consoled them by saying, "Don't worry, it happens to a lot of chip makers."

Cell would have been even better (1)

SteeldrivingJon (842919) | more than 8 years ago | (#14532948)


They should have gone with the Cell. It's even better than Sparc.

NOTE FOR THE SARCASM-IMPAIRED: This comment is meant as a spoof of the unavoidable Cell comments that come up in any Apple CPU discussion. The anachronism is intentional.

Wouldn't Have Made a Big Difference (3, Interesting)

Alon Tal (784059) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533009)

Most probably, the only difference today would have been that we would be reading about Apple dumping _Sun_ for Intel, rather than dumping IBM for same. Reminds me of an Isaac Asimov story called "What If-", in which a newlywed couple meets a man who owns a gadget that can show them alternate realities, if key events in their past had taken a different course. For example: Would they be married had they not accidentally met on a train ride, etc. They keep going back to different points in their past: The day they met, the date of their wedding, and of course, everything is radically different, which aggravates the wife to no end ("This marriage is just based on chance, an accident..."). Right before everything gets really ugly, the husband deparately says: "Show us what we would have been doing at this very moment, had we not met on that train", and, surprisingly, they see themselves, exactly as they are right now, sitting together, happily married.

Other Great Almosts in History... (1)

GigG (887839) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533075)

I almost had sex with Farrah Faucett when I was 13 and she and I were in the same airport (JFK). Almost = we were both there and I certainly thought about it.

They also looked at Alpha (1)

Ian.Waring (591380) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533107)

... before they consumated their relationship with IBM (5 initiatives on offer, including one called Pink - the domain of then Apple employee and ex-VMS engineer Roger Heinen). KO was a big fan of the Apple Desktop Bus and it's simple connectivity, but vetoed Digital Semiconductor providing the chips. Or maybe that was Jack Shields in the Executive Commitee, who drove everything vertically integrated to go eat IBM's lunch by 2007...

Fokelore in DEC at the time anyway. How much of it was true may be a different story.

Ian W.

mod Down (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14533158)

TRYING TO DIISECT bought the farm... the longest or as 7hose non gay,

More History (2, Funny)

FrankDrebin (238464) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533206)

The Macintosh line would have been replaced by the SPARtan, leading to memorable models like the iSpart.

"SUN Almost Stayed In Business" (0, Offtopic)

iberian411 (947793) | more than 8 years ago | (#14533240)

instead of reposting old slashdot stories, how about posting future slashdot stories? like "SUN Almost Stayed In Business".. Or The little IBM that couldn't.
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